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Liverpool issue injury update on Virgil van Dijk

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Life is pretty good at Anfield right now.

Liverpool made it six wins from six to open up the Premier League campaign — they have seven wins on the spin in all competitions to set a new club record for wins at the start of a season — as Jurgen Klopp‘s side eased past Southampton thanks to three first half goals.

[ MORE: Wolves draw at Man United ]

Yet the one negative was the fact that former Saints star Virgil Van Dijk came off in the second half with a rib injury.

With a pivotal stretch of games coming up in the League Cup, PL and UEFA Champions League, it seemed like Liverpool didn’t want to risk any further damage to their star center back.

Speaking about VVD’s injury after the game, Klopp told BBC 5 Live that Van Dijk “has a bruise on his rib, he’s uncomfortable but I don’t think it’s much more.” And Klopp also told Sky Sports that the center back had an injury in the same spot last week and that it isn’t anything too serious.

It will be intriguing to see if Virgil van Dijk is risked for the League Cup third round game against Chelsea at Anfield on Wednesday, especially with Joe Gomez and Joel Matip around and Dejan Lovren recently returning to training.

VVD has been influential in turning Liverpool’s defense into a stingy unit in recent months, with the Reds keeping eight-straight clean sheets at home in the Premier League. They last conceded at home in the PL to West Ham in February. Van Dijk arrived in January for $100 million, a world-record fee for a defender.

That is exactly why Liverpool won’t risk his fitness.

Smart move from Klopp to whip him off on Saturday as Liverpool have bigger fish to fry this season in all four competitions as their perfect start continues.

Stars and Duds from Spurs 1-2 Liverpool

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Tottenham Hotspur had almost nothing to offer aside from Lucas Moura, while it’s hard to find a criticism of Liverpool as the Reds cruised to a 2-0 win on Saturday at Wembley Stadium.

[ MORE: Recap | 3 things ]

Stars

Virgil Van Dijk — There are times I believe I could keep a clean sheet for Liverpool with the big Dutchman back there. He simply nullifies any cross that isn’t magical, and makes life significantly easier for his center back partner and accompanying fullback.

Sadio Mane As usual, the Senegalese attacker was a pace merchant who caused problems with dribbles and tricks, but on Saturday he also pulled the strings at times in leading the attack. Now should he have conceded a stoppage time penalty kick? Perhaps VAR would’ve moved Mane off our list.

Lucas Moura — If Spurs had a star, it was the Brazilian, who was one of the few players relativley unbothered by the absence of Dele.

Naby Keita — Missing on a 64th minute bid to make it 3-0 almost stopped us short of keeping his name on this list, but he made a first-half star intervention in his own box to keep Spurs from a dangerous chance.

Jurgen Klopp — Opinion alert: Liverpool is a more complete team against possession-oriented squads when Jordan Henderson isn’t included as a key piece. Sitting his captain just after Henderson signed a new contract was a brave and smart move.

Duds

Mauricio Pochettino — Before we lay out Tottenham’s individual player failures, it’s important to note that a few of them were inspired by decisions of Spurs management. Playing Harry Winks wide in place of the injured Dele Alli had the entire unit out of whack and stopped Winks from doing what might’ve helped battle Liverpool’s 4-3-3: actually clogging the middle. That said..

Harry Winks — Better once moved into the middle of the fray, but still gave the ball away cheaply at times. Not a good day even considering he was put in a poor position by Pochettino.

Harry Kane — We know Dele wasn’t out there and Eriksen was playing a bit deeper, but this was not a performance befitting one of the best strikers in the world.

Eric Dier — Just sloppy. Rarely can you fault Dier for effort, which makes it hard to fault him, but he didn’t have his A or B game in the locker today and it was not going to be enough against the Reds.

Liverpool waltz past Spurs

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  • GDS helps Liverpool to lead
  • Spurs poor, missing Dele
  • Firmino, Wiljnaldum score

Liverpool passed its first Top Four test of the year in style with a 2-1 win over Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium on Saturday.

Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino scored the goals for the Reds, who moved to 5-0 on the young season and kicked off a run of tricky fixtures with a loss.

Dele Alli and Hugo Lloris were unavailable for for Spurs, who got a stoppage time goal from Erik Lamela.

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Liverpool had two phenomenal chances in the first 20 minutes of the match, one denied by the officials and the second by Michel Vorm.

Then Eric Dier made a terrible back pass that served as a delightful through ball for Mohamed Salah, but Vorm stayed back in his goal and saved a left-footed effort.

Christian Eriksen‘s cutback to Lucas Moura was denied by a sliding Naby Keita in the 27th minute. The Dane then ripped a free kick that Alisson Becker collected with a dip to his right.

Substandard passing often betrayed both teams’ fantastic energy, nerves possibly playing a role in the Top Four clash.

Liverpool went ahead with the help of Goal Decision System, as Vorm’s two-handed slap of Wijnaldum’s header off a 39th minute corner just crossed the line.

[ MORE: Latest Premier League standings ]

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

Joe Gomez opened the door for lively Lucas Moura early in the second half, but Alisson saved the deflected shot.

Another poor giveaway, this one by Mousa Dembele, forced Vorm into a fine save on Sadio Mane (who might’ve wanted to make one more pass).

Lucas cooked Gomez and Trent Alexander-Arnold before zipping a shot off the near post in the 50th minute.

Firmino doubled Liverpool’s lead in the 54th minute as Spurs faltered badly down their right side. Jan Vertonghen‘s sliding diversion was saved of an own goal by the post, but Firmino scored one of the closest range goals possible.

Vorm saved Spurs from a 3-0 deficit when Liverpool earned a 3v2 break in the 64th minute.

Eriksen’s hard, tight cross could only be flicked wide by Kane three minutes later.

Firmino left the match with an apparent head injury in the 73rd minute.

Lamela brought gave Spurs a breath of life in the third minute of stoppage time when he volleyed home.

Now should Mane have conceded a stoppage time penalty kick? VAR would’ve awarded it to Spurs, that’s almost certain, but the video is not in play for the Premier League this season and Mane’s clip of Heung-Min Son‘s heel in the box was not noticed by Michael Oliver.

Key battles for Tottenham vs. Liverpool

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Tottenham Hotspur host Liverpool on Saturday (Watch live, 7:30 a.m. ET on NBCSN and NBCSports.com) in a battle of last season’s third- and fourth-place finishers jockeying for the right to make a genuine challenge to Manchester City’s stranglehold on the Premier League title.

[ MORE: Premier League preview: Tottenham Hotspur vs. Liverpool ]

Tottenham were victorious at Wembley Stadium — site of Saturday’s clash — to the tune of 4-1 last October, courtesy of a Harry Kane brace and single goals from Dele Alli and Son Heung-min, before the two sides played to a memorable 2-2 draw at Anfield in February.

Three points for the home side would see Spurs pull level to the Reds on 12 points, while an away win would open the gap between Jurgen Klopp and Mauricio Pochettino‘s to six points.


Harry Kane vs. Virgil Van Dijk

It’s the world most expensive defender taking on the center forward who would likely command the largest transfer should he hit the market. That’s blockbuster stuff, and rightly so as both Kane and Van Dijk so nearly have every quality you’d expect to see from the ideal player in their respective positions. Kane possesses the size, strength, hold-up and passing ability, craftiness and finishing touch to put any half-chance into the back of the net. Van Dijk, on the other hand, can engage Kane in the kind of physical battle that’s most likely to wear him out over 90 minutes, while simultaneously sticking right alongside him in the open field. Kane won’t often find himself too far from Van Dijk on Saturday, which could mean he’s in for a long, hard day.


Danny Rose or Ben Davis vs. Mohamed Salah

Pochettino has a big choice to make at left (wing) back — as is the case nearly every time out. Typically blessed with a pair of options which offer a night-and-day contrast to one another, Salah is the rare instance of an opponent for whom the Spurs boss truly needs a more well-rounded option. Rose’s attacking tendencies fit part of one gameplan that says the best way to defend Salah is to pin him back by overlapping on his side, but his lack of defensive discipline will almost certainly see him caught out of position a number of times, for which Salah will surely punish him. Davies’ defensive discipline will keep him in the right spots to at least slow Salah and make him work, but his lack of range and inability to change direction won’t allow him to stay in front of the Egyptian — not to mention all of the wide attacking play Spurs lose when he’s picked over Rose, thus inviting constant pressure on the backline as a whole.


Mousa Dembele vs. Naby Keita

Dembele is the soccer equivalent of American football’s “downhill runner”: the type of player who needs the first step or two to be unimpeded in order to generate a bit of moment, who’s then nearly impossible to slow down or take the ball off him once he begins to barrel forward. In his six-plus seasons at Spurs, Dembele has singlehandedly dragged his side to victory on dozens of days, while he’s been rendered completely ineffective on just as many others. It’s tempting to make Eric Dier — who’s far less comfortable and dynamic with the ball at his feet — the target of a press, but it’s Dembele who can be slowed to a crawl and subsequently blunt the entire Spurs attack. Keita will again be the one tasked with triggering the Reds’ high press, and he should made to stick on Dembele from the first to final whistles.

Klopp: ‘Nobody thinks about’ $100M Van Dijk fee anymore

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Virgil Van Dijk needed fewer than 12 months to justify the $100-million transfer fee Liverpool paid to secure his services in January, at least in the mind of manager Jurgen Klopp.

[ MORE: Pogba’s agent hits back at critics, dares Man United to sell Pogba ]

Van Dijk, whose price tag remains the world record for a defender, quickly settled in at Anfield and helped the Reds reach the Champions League final inside his first five months at the club. Now, after beginning what will be his first full season at Liverpool, the 27-year-old is drawing praise of the highest order from Klopp.

Following Monday’s 2-0 victory over Crystal Palace, Klopp not only opined that Van Dijk has proven a worthy investment already, but went so far as to joke that perhaps “he was too cheap.” While the gaudy fee grabbed all the headlines back in January, Klopp says, “Nobody thinks about it now” — quotes from ESPN.com:

“Quality costs a specific price. With cars, it’s the case, and with players, too. Nobody thinks about it now.

“He’s a player in this market who is worth it, and maybe now people think he was too cheap. He loves playing with these boys, and that’s the most important thing.”

The Reds are scoring goals for fun once again this season, leaving the defense as the only relative unknown this season. Through two games of the 2018-19 season, they are the only side in the Premier League to not have conceded a single goal.